Home > High Heat (Jack Reacher #17.5)(9)

High Heat (Jack Reacher #17.5)(9)
Author: Lee Child

They turned south on Fifth Avenue at the Empire State Building and drove slowly in the middle lane, passing knots of people in the roadway, two of whom were carrying a rolled-up carpet, three of whom were loading the trunk of a big battered car with something in boxes. They veered left onto Broadway at 23rd Street, past the ghostly Flatiron Building, and they continued south, around Union Square, across 14th Street, into enemy territory, and onward. The mayhem got a little worse the further south they went. Broadway looked narrow, like a dark trench through a dark landscape, and there were busted windows, and people everywhere, moving in groups, fast and furtive and silent, barely visible at all, except for the glow of cigarettes. They passed 4th Street, and 3rd, where they had been before, and Chrissie started to slow the car, and Reacher said, “Change of plan. I think Sixth Avenue and Bleecker might be better.”

Chrissie said, “Why?”

“What is Croselli worried about right now?”

“Getting his stuff ripped off. Like anyone. If he has stuff.”

“I think he does. I mean, how does he earn money between Houston and 14th? Maybe protection rackets and hookers and so on, but dope for sure. He must have a stash somewhere. But where? Not in an ancestral home in Little Italy, because that’s way south of Houston.”

“You know the geography pretty well.”

“I’ve studied it from afar. And he walked west from Waverly. After the slapping incident. Toward Sixth Avenue. Obviously he was heading back to make his phone calls. About me. So his HQ must be west of Waverly.”

“You think Hemingway knows where it is?”

“I’m sure she does. And I’m sure she’s watching it, right now. I’m assuming no one gave her an actual role tonight, because she’s suspended. So she’s still freelancing. I bet she’s hoping some bunch of guys busts down Croselli’s door, so she can get a record of what’s inside. Maybe she’ll even get Croselli defending it, which would be pretty much a slam dunk, wouldn’t it? Doesn’t matter what kind of deal he made. Some things can’t be ignored.”

“It will be more than just Croselli defending it. He’s got twelve guys.”

“Ten now,” Reacher said. “Two of them are in the hospital. Or trying to get there. But we’ll keep out of their way. It’s Hemingway we want.”

“Hard to find one woman in the dark.”

“All we can do is try.”

So they rolled onward, toward Houston Street, past a big stereo store with two busted windows and not much left inside, and they made the right and crept west, past the dark wasteland streets of Soho coming in from the left, Mercer, and Greene, and Wooster, and West Broadway, and Thompson, and Sullivan, and MacDougal. Then they turned right on Sixth, and headed north a block to where Bleecker and Downing and Minetta all met in an untidy little six-way split. Retail was down-market and scruffy in that location, some of it too scruffy even for looters, some of it already busted wide open and stripped. Looking north, Sixth was the same long black hole it had been before, with the same slim upright rectangle of night sky at the end of it.

Chrissie said, “Should I park here?”

Reacher said, “Let’s cruise a few blocks.”

“You said we would hang out and let her come to us.”

“Mission creep. Occupational hazard. Like the Navy transporting the Marines.”

“I’m an English major.”

“Just five minutes, OK?”

“OK,” she said.

But they didn’t need five minutes. They were done in barely sixty seconds. They made the tight left onto Downing, and a right on Bedford, and a right on Carmine, back toward Bleecker again, and in a doorway on the right side of the street Reacher caught a flash of pale skin and blonde hair, and he pointed, and Chrissie jammed to a stop, and Jill Hemingway stepped out of the dark and bent down to Reacher’s window, like a Seoul streetwalker talking to an enlisted man.

* * *

Reacher expected Hemingway to be mad at his reappearance, but she wasn’t. He figured she felt exposed. Or caught out in her own obsession. Which she was, basically. And she looked a little sheepish about it.

He asked, “Is his place near here?”

She pointed through the car at a pair of large blank doors across the street. They were tall and wide. Like a wagon entrance, from long ago, big enough for a cart and a team of horses. In the daylight the paint might have looked dark green. Set into the right-hand door was a judas gate, big enough for a person. Presumably the doors would lead to an interior ground floor yard. It was a two-story building. Offices above, possibly. Or storerooms. Behind the building was a bigger building, blank and dark and massive. A brick church of some kind, maybe.

Reacher asked, “Is he in there?”

Hemingway nodded.

Reacher asked, “With how many others?”

“He’s alone.”

“Really?”

“He runs protection rackets. Among other things. So now he has to deliver. His guys are all out, watching over his clients.”

“I didn’t know protection rackets worked that way. I thought they were just extortion, plain and simple.”

“They are, basically. But he needs to maintain some kind of credibility. And he needs to keep his best cash cows in business. There’s a lot of damage being done tonight. Plenty of places are going to go under. No more payoffs from them. And a wise man keeps an eye on his cash flow.”

Reacher turned and looked at the doors. “You hoping someone will break in?”

“I don’t know what’s taking them so long. That’s the problem with junkies. No get-up-and-go.”

“What has he got in there?”

“A little of everything. He keeps his inventory low because he’s got the New Jersey Turnpike and the Holland Tunnel for rapid resupply, which is apparently what they teach you in business school now, but still, I bet there’s a week’s worth in there.”

“Are we in the way? Should we go park somewhere else?”

“You should go home. This isn’t your business.”

“I need to talk to you.”

“About what?”

“The Son of Sam.”

“Croselli isn’t enough for you?”

“I saw him.”

“Who?”

“I saw a man carrying a Charter Arms Bulldog and peering into cars.”

“Are you serious?”

“It was our car he peered into.”

“Where?”

“The East River, at 34th Street.”

Hemingway said, “You know guns, right? Being a Marine and all?”

“Son of a Marine,” Reacher said. “It was the right gun.”

“It’s pitch dark.”

“The moon and the stars and the water.”

Hemingway ducked down another inch and looked across Reacher at Chrissie. “Did you see it too?”

Chrissie said, “No.”

“How come?”

“I wasn’t looking.”

Hemingway said, “I don’t know what to do. OK, let’s say we have a confirmed sighting, but so what? We already know the Son of Sam is in New York. That’s the point of the guy. It adds no new information. You’d need something more. You’d need to know who he is. Do you?”

“No,” Reacher said. “But I know what he used to be.”

* * *

They parked on Bleecker, intending to walk back and join Hemingway in her doorway hideout, but suddenly Bleecker had people on it, some of them in groups, some of them in pairs, some of those groups and pairs carrying stuff too heavy for comfort, and therefore consequently looking for alternative modes of transportation, such as small hatchback cars, each one apparently ideal for hauling a large television. Reacher and Chrissie were a yard out of the Chevette, with the doors closed but not locked, when the staring match started. Two guys, staggering under an enormous box, with Sony written on it upside down. They came in a straight line, eyeballing the Chevette all the way, and Reacher said, “Keep walking, guys.”

 

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